As part of our support for #EarthDay, we spoke to the founders & CEOs of our cleantech portfolio companies to get their perspectives on what it means to innovate in this space, and their thoughts about the future.
SyndicateRoom: In a few sentences, tell us what Hexigone does.
Patrick Dodds: Hexigone manufactures smart reservoirs that protect from corrosion, replacing dangerous traditional chemicals used in paints.
We started out to replace Hexavalent Chromate (the chemical causing the cancer in the Erin Brokovich film), and now we increase the maintenance cycles of assets, reducing the drain on primary resources and lowering CO2 emissions, all via Chemical Intelligence.
SR: Tell us more about why developing cleantech is important and what other businesses can learn from what you’re doing?
PD: You cannot use the same technology and expect CO2 emissions to drop, plastic in the oceans to fall or the Earth's resources to become infinite. The previous 'one use and throw away' mentality has to change and it is evident the human population is harming the Earth. If we don’t do anything, we are expecting different results when we haven’t changed the process or products. Cleantech allows our lives to continue but in a cleaner and greener manner, utilising and adopting new technology. We experience the same mentality in our industry where doing the same thing and expecting different results is a norm, as they continue to use the same tech or slight iterations, expecting huge performance increases. Instead of the current products on the market, we looked at the problem differently resulting in higher performance, higher sustainability and less drain on resources. By being resourceful and adopting new technologies, as well as learning from them, we can use the world's finite resources more intelligently, including circular economy.
SR: What trends or developments in the cleantech space are you most excited about and why?
PD: We love circularity and cannot understand that this is only just becoming a new thing! We have seen some great companies that have software to track waste such as Topolytics, meaning that waste streams can be identified and located, and then used for their next purpose instead of landfill or incineration. The use of technology to solve our problems is at the forefront of the efforts and people are realising we have to do something instead of carrying on and ignoring the issue, utilising standard, traditional techniques or outdated industries.
SR: What do you think we’ll see in the next 5-10 years within these sectors?
PD: There will be step changes in technology and faster adoption cycles, the old corporates are struggling to push their agendas through, with investment in Hard Tech we are seeing some huge changes in cleantech solutions that the entire population are able to adopt, giving a higher impact than a small minority of campaigners.
SR: What do you consider the main impediments to widespread advances in clean technologies globally, and what steps can businesses and ordinary people take to mitigate them?
PD: The cost of the technology preventing adoption across different regions that don’t have a high disposable income, alongside infrastructure not keeping up with up with the changes to allow an easy transition for the mass populations. By subsidising the technologies the governments can make it easier for more people to adopt the new technologies, as well as support for innovations that are cheaper. People need a new mindset to embrace new technology and not hark back to the good old days or be closed minded to better technology for the earth.
SR: What differences do you feel your business specifically will make to the larger landscape of environmental responsibility, renewable energy or sustainability?
PD: We have made sure that we do not use fossil fuels to heat our building or power the manufacturing process and endeavour to purchase green electricity, its small simple steps but if every business took the same approach, the effect would be huge. Our products can be made from a waste stream of an adjacent industry and we are working with our collaboration partners to prevent this from going to waste or landfill, giving it another use.
We also have a closed look manufacturing process where we reuse all the raw materials in the manufacturing process. It's taken some thinking and experimentation but we have saved money by thinking more green!
SR: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs looking to start businesses in the cleantech space?
PD: Its hard work but worth it. Entrepreneurs with purpose will have much more satisfaction than just trying to make money and it can be difficult but there are plenty of investors out there who want to make a difference with their money.
SR: How important is investment to the success of cleantech businesses, and what single argument would you make to encourage investors to consider investment in this area?
PD: The space requires the technology to prove itself and be validated by the market before it becomes a sustainable company and the only way to fund that is through investment. Cleantech businesses have immediate global reach and the opportunity for the investors is huge, the amount of VCs investing with purpose has become the norm – it’s a very positive trend. Government backing to fill the ‘valley of death’ would go a long way to make sure some of the amazing Hard Tech solutions make it out of the lab.
Patrick Dodds is a Royal Academy of Engineerng Enterprise Fellow and founder of Hexigone Inhibitors Ltd. He founded Hexigone after making a scientific discovery during his doctorate to find a replacement for hexavalent chromate used in coatings and safely transferred the technology from lab to commercial product. He has a background in Materials Engineering and Chemistry, gaining his first degree from Cardiff University and his postgraduate qualifications at Swansea University. Further business training from the RAEng allowed the transition from Engineer to CEO and Hexigone is working with over 40 global customers. Patrick supports other hard tech entrepreneurs navigating their scale up journey.
Find out more about Hexigone.
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